World-renowned pianist Van Cliburn, who was diagnosed with advanced bone cancer in August, died Wednesday morning at the age of 78. Cliburn died at his home, very peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones, according to Thompson's Harveson Cole Funeral Home.
Cliburn's funeral will take place Sunday at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth at 3 p.m. Visitation is Saturday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Here is a sampling of memorial messages posted online after news of Cliburn's passing began to circulate around North Texas and the world.
"This week, we mark the passing of Van Cliburn, one of the most talented pianists of the last century and a musical artist of rare distinction. At the young age of 23, Mr. Cliburn swept the world off its feet with his winning performance at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, and he quickly became a beloved ambassador of American culture around the world - especially in the former Soviet Union. His music transcended the challenges of international politics and contributed to an unlikely thaw in Cold War relations. He was truly a man of his moment. Like every President since Harry Truman, I enjoyed the privilege of hearing Mr. Cliburn play, and I am confident that the enduring beauty of his art will sustain his legendary status for years to come. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Mr. Cliburn's loved ones." - President Barack Obama
“Van Cliburn lived an extraordinary life and was a true man of his times. His prodigious gifts at the piano are legendary, and his storied accomplishment at the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition helped bring the world closer together. His larger-than-life talent helped transcend discourse and reminded us that we are, at the core of our being, all human beings who love works of beauty. On a personal note, Anita and I will miss him tremendously. We were blessed to call Van Cliburn a close friend. He was an incredibly thoughtful person and his love of life was contagious to anyone in his company. Anita and I send our deepest condolences to his family, friends and fans during this difficult time.” - Texas Gov. Rick Perry
"Everybody is just devastated by it. He's in a much better place now. Van was one of the greatest ambassadors for Fort Worth that ever has been. He's single-handedly thrust us into the the international spotlight with his piano playing and then the Van Cliburn competition. It brings people from all over the world ... We will sorely miss Van. His energy. His enthusiasm. His talent just brought a world of light to Fort Worth ... I just remember Van not only for his playing but also his personality. I saw him about 8 weeks ago and he was in the car and he could barely hop out,
but he hopped out and hugged my neck. He was always so energetic and so warm and caring and if you knew Van, you couldn't help but love the man that he was." - Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.
"Such a prominent person but also a shy and reserved person and never seeking to draw attention to himself at least when he was here related to church. But just warm and gracious and always quick to offer a hug and praise. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra is going to be here playing as well as our own organ which is named after Van's mother so music will be a huge part of the service. Of course he was such a big international figure and an important person in 20th century American life. But he was also here a church member and when he was in town, showed up on Sunday mornings for worship. Slipped in usually as we got started and sat in the back and slipped out when it was over. And he'd always stop on his way out and give me big hug and say, 'Wonderful, wonderful.'" - Sr. Pastor Brent Beasley, Fort Worth Broadway Baptist Church.
"Texas, America and the world lost a treasure today .. Van Cliburn was the best, in music and heart." - Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
"“I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of my good friend, Van Cliburn. Van’s incredible talent made history and inspired America and the world. But to all who knew him, he will be remembered for his generous spirit, his modesty and his sense of humor. Van made Fort Worth, and our country so proud. He will be dearly missed.” - Congresswoman Kay Granger.
"Saddened to hear beloved FW icon,#Van Cliburn passed away today." - @FortWorthPD
"RIP #VanCliburn. Your legacy lives on!" - @SundanceSquare
"Remembering #VanCliburn: a giant among pianists, Cold War idol & the 1st classical musician to sell a million albums." - @NPRClassical
"RIP #VanCliburn. KUSC airs performances by "The Texan Who Conquered Russia" during the noon, 2p, and 4p hours today." @ClassicalKUSC
"RIP #VanCliburn, a favorite guest under Max Rudolf RT@nprmusic Remembering Van Cliburn, A Giant Among Pianists." - @CincySymphony
"He played like an immortal, he played like a legend. #VanCliburn" - @NashvilleOpera
"Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1" se convirtió en el primer álbum de música clásica en ser disco de platino en Estados Unidos #VanCliburn" - @OFilarmonicaJal
"I'm very thankful for #VanCliburn. He was always an unsung hero in his support for the music ministry at my church growing up in Ft. Worth." - @TylerBlackwell
Follow along or leave your own memorial to Cliburn on Twitter using the hashtag #VanCliburn.